Sarah Segal-Lazar knows how to make the birthday party for a socially awkward child epic. Her show, Talk Mackerel — part character study, part experimental theatre, and part musical — was the talk of the Montreal Fringe Festival. Reviving Talk Mackerel’s lead character 10-year-old-ish Leslie Moira Duncanaine, Segal-Lazar lets the chatty child from the East Coast host a radio variety hour as a fundraiser for the Montreal Children’s Hospital through Beyond the Mountain.
“It is a live radio variety show,” Segal-Lazar explains. “The audience becomes our live studio audience. It also has the conceit of you guys listen to show every week, and now we’re at the Segal Centre and we’re going to do the Talk Mackerel variety hour.”
Like any good variety show, the program is a mixed bag. “There’s music and storytelling and it all comes together in this live performance,” Segal-Lazar says. “There’s face painting before and during intermission for kids and adults. There’s also a message booth where people are invited to write messages that will et read live at the start of the second act.”
“I think it’ll be so much fun,” she says. “There’s even a theme song.”
The show is different from Talk Mackerel, even though Segal-Lazar is playing the same character. “This is a spin off of Talk Mackerel. It’s Post-Talk-Mackerel. None of the other people from the original show are in it. It has three new friends. This show will be very different. If anyone saw Talk Mackerel and liked it, they can come and see this and it won’t be the same. If anyone likes this, they can go see Talk Mackerel at the Wildside Festival.”
The premise of the show is that Leslie Moira Duncanaine has hooked up with a band. “They’ve been touring all of Canada and now are in Montreal,” Segal-Lazar says. “Bartholomew Martin is a singer and the other one is O’Malley Dan who plays bass and Galgaher Hinton who plays djembe, sings, and plays guitar. None of them speak.”
Talk Mackerel also had a friend who didn’t speak. This time, though, the decision had more to do with constraints about the process of making the show. “I didn’t plan on having more than one friend who didn’t speak, but this worked really well. It’s really great to make art, but there is also something about practicality of rehearsals. We all have day jobs, and rehearsal times are limited. We’re all donating our time,” she says. “The beauty of making a variety hour is that we get to jam and have fun, but no stress of memorizing lines.”
She explains further. “It’s easy for me to become [Leslie], but I didn’t want to give these performers too much of a stress and be too much of an imposition. The advantage of characters that sing but don’t talk is that rehearsals are more easy going. There’s a practicality in that. Besides [Leslie] has a strange accent, and if they have different accent… Bands don’t always talk, anyway. Sometimes they just play music.”
Of course, everyone involved is thrilled to be part of the fundraiser and she is quick to point out the team involved. “Sure, it’s nice for us to be doing this,” she says, “But Beyond the Mountain has dealt with so much more in putting this on. We’re the talent. Beyond the Mountain has put in all the leg work and made the connections and got word out.”
Segal-Lazar notes that she’s very happy with how past fundraisers for Beyond the Moutain went. “I think last year, the money went to the children music therapy department. Wheverever they put the money is fine in our book. The show is 70% music and if they put the money into music therapy, we would be thrilled.”
Finally, the cast has personal reasons for wanting to support Children’s Hospital. “One of my best friend since I was three is in show and she has asthma,” says Segal-Lazar. “She spent a lot of time in Children’s getting treated for asthma as a kid. On her side more as a patient, and as my side as a friend with a best friend at hospital, it’s a way to say thank you to Children’s and the way it impacted our lives.”
Tidbits from Talk, Music from Mackerel is at the Segal Centre (5170 Cote Ste Catherine) on Nov 24th at 2 p.m. $12/$25.
Talk Mackerel will be part of the Wildside Festival this January 2014.